2011 seems like the year of experimentations, in terms of content chiefly. Look at the stories being churned out this year. Irrespective of how these films fare at the box-office, you cannot turn your face away from the fact that these films at least made an earnest and honest attempt to narrate innovative stories, which were hitherto untold on the Hindi screen. In a momentous departure from the tried and tested stuff, a number of films lined up for release are hi-concept films made in low budgets, devoid of star support. 404, directed by Prawaal Raman, is one such film.
After making a number of films that didn't really make much of an impact, Prawaal makes an effort to defy the stereotype. 404 is a suspense thriller with a twist in the end that blows your mind. Unlike those who borrow from DVDs and re-work on characters and locales, 404 is fresh, daring and most importantly, original. 404 is perhaps the first film that depicts bipolar disorder. It's a tough choice. You have to remain factual while depicting this disorder and at the same time, keep the audience interest alive while narrating a story. It's a challenge!
404 isn't a horror film, but there are moments that send a chill down your spine. In fact, it is these moments that elevate the stature of the film. More specifically, the presence of the dead person in the room, in the campus, in the vicinity... gives you goose bumps. Also, the twists and turns in the narrative keep you on tenterhooks; you just can't guess what's in store next. But the best is reserved for the finale. It's shocks, stuns and makes a spectacular impact.
On the flipside, 404 has an abstract title, which suits the plot [the sequence of events are connected to Room 404], but it doesn't give an inkling of what the film is all about. Besides, the film, though well made, caters to a niche audience. In fact, a few portions of Nishikant Kamat, the professor, may come across as mumbo-jumbo to the average moviegoer, besides the slow pacing of course.
A prime Medical Institution. A world renowned Professor [Nishikant Kamat]. A new student Abhimanyu [Rajvvir Aroraa], who defies his seniors and the practice of ragging. A secret that is locked forever. Professor Aniruddh is impressed with Abhimanyu's rationality and tenacity when he decides to dispel all rumors and moves into a room that has been forbidden for years.
What follows is an intriguing story about a Professor who denies the paranormal and believes only in Science, and a bright young student who battles with his conflict of illusion and reality. Is what Abhimanyu sees real or is his mind playing tricks?
404 marks the 're-birth' of director Prawaal Raman, who effectively psyches your mind. His choice of the story and also the execution of the written material deserve to be lauded. In fact, he has handled a number of individualistic scenes with precision. I'd also like to make a special mention of the cinematography [DoP: Savita Singh]. The lighting of several sequences only creates the mood for what is to follow. There are no songs in the film, but the background score is most appropriate.
404 is embellished with excellent performances, with each actor infusing life in his/her character. Nishikant Kamat is brilliant, a revelation. Though a number of directors have tried their hand at acting recently, Nishikant seems to tower above them with a striking, natural performance. Watch him break down in the finale. Imaad Shah is wonderful. Wonder why this talented actor is limiting himself to few films. Tisca Chopra delivers yet another powerful performance. She's easy on the eyes. Satish Kaushik is endearing and likeable. But it is new-find Rajvvir Aroraa who catches you with complete surprise. It's an incredibly complex role for a newcomer. One of the pre-requisite demands is to convey through silence and facial expressions and the youngster steers through rough waters with alarming ease. The remaining actors, students all, are perfect in their parts.
On the whole, 404 is yet another innovative story with a taut screenplay, riveting direction and applaud-worthy performances as its strong points. Original in content and radical in approach, this new-age thriller is yet another step in the right direction of content over stars. Get ready to psych your mind!